Empowering Through Information and the Fostering of Connections
Love. Acceptance. Intervention. Civil Rights. December 07, 2018

In This Issue

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How pregnancy may shape a child's autism

OCD: Brain mechanism explains symptoms

Now Mental Health Patients Can Specify Their Care Before Hallucinations and Voices Overwhelm Them

Thirteen-year-old activist with autism wants to close seclusion rooms at schools

Repetitive behaviors tied to brain activity patterns in toddlers

Family and Others Looking for Help!!!

No Wait for RDI at Family Guidance

San Diego's Best Map of Christmas Lights

Positive Action Community Theatre (PACT) presents Children's Theatre Workshops!

This Saturday! Club Beacons Meet Up in Carlsbad for 18 to 26 year olds

Cortica Care: Comprehensive Autism Treatment

Introducing "NFAR Codes" Coding Classes for Those with Autism

Therapeutic Approach to Growth Offering Relationship Development Intervention (RDI) & More!

ATPF Teen Time: San Diego Miramar College Tour

Tierrasanta-based Belardo Lights Christmas / Holiday Lighting

MSNC Free Webinar Series: Independent Education Evaluation (IEE)

Holiday Central San Diego Family Pool/Pizza Party with Santa!

CORRECT LINK!!! -- City of San Diego Park & Recreation Therapeutic Recreation Services Program

ATPF Parent & Caregiver Workshop

10th Annual ATPF USD Winter Wonderland


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  • How pregnancy may shape a child's autism

  • Autism is predominantly genetic in origin, but a growing list of preterm exposures for mother and baby may sway the odds.

    Even after her first child, Shane, was diagnosed with autism last year at the age of 2, Melissa Patao knew she wanted a bigger family. She was aware that any other children she had would have high odds of being diagnosed with the condition - estimates suggest that about 20 percent of siblings of autistic children also receive a diagnosis - but she was more than willing to take the chance. "I just adore Shane so much; he's my world," she says. In August, Patao gave birth to her second son, Zayden.

    If it turns out that Zayden is also on the spectrum, "so be it," Patao says. But all through her pregnancy, she wondered 'what if?' She found herself poring over research studies in an attempt to understand his odds of having autism and what might influence them.

    Patao, who is training to become a pediatric nurse practitioner, found no shortage of reading material: Last year alone, scientists published more than 100 papers on events during pregnancy that can influence a child's odds of having autism. Genes determine about 50 to 95 percent of that risk. But that means that "there's more to the story than just that genetic predisposition," says Daniele Fallin, a genetic epidemiologist at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore. Environmental contributions must also factor in. Read on...

  • OCD: Brain mechanism explains symptoms

  • A large review of existing neuroscientific studies unravels the brain circuits and mechanisms that underpin obsessive-compulsive disorder. The researchers hope that the new findings will make existing therapies more effective, "or guide new treatments."

    Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is a mental health condition that affects more than 2 million adults in the United States.

    People with OCD often experience recurring, anxiety-inducing thoughts or urges - known as obsessions - or compulsive behaviors that they cannot control.

    Whether it is repeatedly checking if the door is locked or switching lights on and off, OCD symptoms are uncontrollable and can severely interfere with a person's quality of life. Read on...

  • Now Mental Health Patients Can Specify Their Care Before Hallucinations and Voices Overwhelm Them
  • Psychiatric advance directives allow patients with serious mental illness to specify the treatment they want if they become too sick to say so.

    Steve Singer, who has bipolar and borderline personality disorders, knows when he's on the verge of a mental health crisis. The female voice he hears incessantly in his head suddenly shuts up, and the hula hoop he gyrates while walking to the grocery store stops easing his anxieties.

    That's when he gets to a hospital. Usually, talking briefly with a nurse or social worker calms him enough to return home. But this year a hospital placed him on a locked ward, took his phone, and had an armed guard watch him for 20 hours before a social worker spoke with him and released him.

    "I get the heebie-jeebies thinking about it," said Mr. Singer, 60. "They didn't help me, they hurt me." Read on...

  • Thirteen-year-old activist with autism wants to close seclusion rooms at schools
  • "When I asked for help or asked if anyone was still there, nobody would answer," said Alex. "I felt alone. I felt scared."

    Alex Campbell was just 7 years old when, he says, his principal dragged him down the hall to the school's "crisis room."

    Administrators reserved the room, a converted storage closet, for children who acted out. He still remembers the black-painted walls. The small window he was too short to reach. The sound of a desk scraping across the floor, as it was pushed in front of the door to make sure he couldn't get out.

    Alex, who has autism spectrum disorder, says he was taken there more than a half-dozen times in first grade, for behavior such as ripping up paper or refusing to follow instructions in class. The room was supposed to calm him down. Instead, it terrified him. Read on...

  • Repetitive behaviors tied to brain activity patterns in toddlers

  • Children who have repetitive behaviors, a core autism trait, show particular patterns of brain activity as early as 1 year of age, according to a new study1.

    Autistic people have brain activity patterns that differ from those of their typical peers. These differences emerge early in life: A study last year showed that brain activity patterns in 6-month-olds can be used to predict an autism diagnosis at age 2.

    But few studies have probed the functional connectivity - synchronous activity between pairs of brain regions - that underlies repetitive behaviors.

    "We believe that this is one of the first, if not the first, studies of functional brain connectivity in relationship to restricted and repetitive behaviors in the first years of life," says lead investigator John Pruett, associate professor of psychiatry at Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri. Read on...

  • Family and Others Looking for Help!!!

  • I am writing this ad for the amazing family of caregivers who have worked for us for the past six years, caring for my father until his death, and then my severely autistic, non-verbal sister and our mother, both, until they both recently passed away. The caretaker is a licensed CNA, super responsible, kind and personable. He is young and strong, and has experience working with the elderly, those with autism, the physically disabled, and those in a hospice type situation. He has an outstanding work ethic, and cared for our family members regularly during the night as well as the day. He is completely reliable in ordering and dispensing meds. He did extensive "diaper duty" and showering / bathing for incontinent family members with never any complaints. He has a wife who is as sweet as he is, and two young children, and they all lived in with first my father and then my mother (divorced). This would be optional, though it was a great thing, as his wife was the relief caretaker. I would be happy to talk on the phone or in person further about our experiences with this family, their compensation, or anything else. The caretaker has a car and valid driver's license, speaks good English, and is a recently naturalized US citizen. They are willing to relocate. Daria or 619-788-2042

    Does your child or young adult have IHSS hours? I have an amazing person who is working with my 22 year old daughter and is looking to take on new clients. She's been great at teaching life skills, cooking, hygiene and can also help with things like organizing schoolwork, mentoring etc. She is also available for work private pay as well. Please spread the word if you know anyone who needs this type of service for teens/young adults šŸ˜ŠContact me for details Debra Berl 619 672-8893

    We hired an advocate this summer for our middle schooler, but feel that it is a lot of money for what we are getting. We just would like someone who would answer questions we can have once in a while, but in an immediate way because sometimes it's urgent...does anyone know of someone/somewhere we can get those kind of services? Thank you!!

    My 26 yo son is looking for a room to rent near Miramar or Mesa Junior College.
    He is high functioning ASD, quiet, no drinking or drugs. Does not drive so needs to be near public transportation. Ideal living situation would be with 1 or 2 similar young adults. Thank you! 858-837-2355

    Hi any advice on adaptive pe.....there trying to take away the rooms at my son's middle school to give to the drama club. What can I do as a parent?

    If you have a question or request for this newsletter group, please send your email request to People who can help you will email you directly with their responses.

  • No Wait for RDI at Family Guidance
  • Relationship Development Intervention (RDIĀ®)

    Our primary approach for treatment of autism spectrum is a developmental program called Relationship Development Intervention (RDIĀ®). RDIĀ® is a unique treatment approach that empowers parents to guide their child to succeed in our dynamic world. Children who learn to actively engage with the support of their parents in safe but challenging learning opportunities develop a strong motivation to explore and expand their world, as well as develop competence and trust in themselves and their guides.

    Why RDIĀ®?
    Foundations of the adult mind are developed in the first years of life through the "Guiding Relationship". From the middle of the first year of life, hour-by-hour, day-by-day, in every culture on earth, children interact with parents and other important adults in deceptively simple encounters, with a very serious underlying agenda; constructing the architecture of the child's mind and brain. Click here for all the info about RDIĀ®!!!

    The Family Guidance and Therapy Center
    Locations in Point Loma and Mira Mesa

  • San Diego's Best Map of Christmas Lights
  • Grab a comfy sweater and a cup of hot cocoa and take the whole family to see San Diego's awesome holiday light displays! San Diego Family's famous Map of Christmas Lights is back with all the festive family fun. Our interactive map is organized by neighborhood with Google Map directions to help you find your favorite spots. A print version of the Map of Lights is also available in the December issue on stands now at Ralphs and Albertsons! Click here for all the info!!!

  • Positive Action Community Theatre (PACT) presents Children's Theatre Workshops!
  • Register now for PACT's children's theatre workshop series, offered for elementary aged children of all abilities on Saturday afternoons from 2:00 to 3:00 p.m. This 8-week series begins January 26 and concludes March 23. Located at Dance North County in Encinitas, workshops will include improvisational theatre activities designed to improve confidence, cooperation, and creativity. It will be led by PACT Artistic Director Sandy Redmon, and by Jacob Redmon and Jovyn Anderson.

    Tuition is $100 for the 8-week series, with scholarships available. Contact Kathryn Campion at PACT for more information or to register: 760-815-8512,, PACT is a non-profit organization established in 2008. Its mission is to empower individuals with unique needs and create community through the performing arts. Join us!

  • This Saturday! Club Beacons Meet Up in Carlsbad for 18 to 26 year olds
  • The theme this week is Winter Fun!
    Saturday, December 8th
    1 - 4 pm
    Beacons, Inc.
    6150 Yarrow Drive, Suite E
    Carlsbad, CA 92011
    Cost $30
    Please Pre-register at

  • Cortica Care: Comprehensive Autism Treatment
  • Comprehensive autism treatment. Built on neuroscience. Delivered with compassion.

    The Cortica Care Model is the culmination of Dr. Suzanne Goh's research experience and clinical practice. This innovative approach combines optimal biomedical treatment with the most effective strategies for advancing cognition, communication, and behavior. Through the program, children achieve more meaningful social interaction, greater capacity for self-regulation, enhanced cognitive function, and improved overall health across all body systems. Over months and years, the treatment program evolves to match a child's new skills and abilities, making possible meaningful progress toward independent living, social relationships, occupation, and recreation.

    The Cortica Care Model:

    • Neurophysiology
    • Family and Home
    • Biochemistry
    • Cognition and Behavior
    • Sensorimotor Integration
    • Communication
    Together, we clarify the complex, celebrate extraordinary efforts, and witness moments of brilliance as our children grow new skills and abilities. Many of our services are covered by medical insurance plans. Contact us for all the info!!! Cortica Care
    7090 Miratech Drive
    San Diego, CA 92121

  • Introducing "NFAR Codes" Coding Classes for Those with Autism
  • In February, NFAR will be introducing classes for teens and young adults, ages 16+ and interested in computer coding. Curriculum pace and hands on exercises will be tailored to serving those with autism.

    Thanks to funding by an Autism Speaks grant as part of their NXT GEN Coders Program, powered by GameStop, we are able to offer this class at reduced cost to participants!

    This course will provide instruction on introductory programming in C#, in a game development engine called Unity, one of the tools used by the game development industry.

    Classes will be held on Wednesdays and Saturdays, for 2.5 - 3 hours per session for a total of 70+ hours. To learn more/register.

    Have questions: contact NFAR at 858-679-8800.

  • Therapeutic Approach to Growth Offering Relationship Development Intervention (RDI) & More!
  • Therapeutic Approach to Growth believes that every individual is unique and has the potential for significant growth. We assume and foster competence while honoring family values and priorities. Our holistic approach is built upon trusting, supportive relationships and collaboration between disciplines and families.

    We specializing in the development and implementation of individualized comprehensive programs utilizing Relationship Development Intervention (RDI), Occupational Therapy, Sensory Integration, Sensory Processing, Applied Behavior Analysis, Art Therapy, and Life Balance Yoga Therapy.

    Offering support in the San Diego, Carlsbad, Orange County, and the Inland Empire.

    In addition to supporting our clients directly, we offer guidance to parents, grandparents, therapists, teachers, siblings, school staff, babysitters etc.

    Therapeutic Approach to Growth
    (858) 689-2027

  • ATPF Teen Time: San Diego Miramar College Tour
  • Hosted by Autism Tree Project Foundation
    Saturday, December 8, 2018 at 8:30 AM - 11:30 AM
    San Diego Miramar College
    10440 Black Mountain Rd, San Diego, California 92126

    We are so grateful to the San Diego Miramar College for coordinating a tour of their Fire Technology, Diesel Technology, and Automotive Technology programs for our ATPF Teens! Join us for a hands-on tour of these vocational program facilities, learn about current industry job opportunities, and finish the day with a pizza lunch!

    To RSVP or for more information, contact or call 619-222-4465.

  • Tierrasanta-based Belardo Lights Christmas / Holiday Lighting
  • This year marks the 13th year that the Tierrasanta-based Belardo Lights Christmas / Holiday Lighting display will be providing lifetime memories for visitors in San Diego. It started in 2005 when Randy Schimka was trying to find activities to connect with his young son Brandon, who has autism and was prone to tantrums during outings with the family. But all that changed when Randy took him to see some local Christmas Light displays. Brandon loved it, and asked to visit more than once, which was unheard of.

    Delighted with his son's newfound interest, Randy and Brandon started working on a Holiday lighting display of their own at their home in Tierrasanta at 5306 Belardo Drive. It started off small, but over the years the display has grown to well over 100,000 lights, with mostly home-built decorations, and the whole display is computer controlled, and synchronized to music.

    Randy designs the display decorations, and many of them are built by Brandon and Grandpa Joe Schimka in his woodshop / metal shop, and then Randy and Brandon do the electrical work to bring the decorations to life. They have even built full-size animated Snowman and Snow woman characters that move and talk. Randy's girlfriend Melynie is enthusiastic about the display as well, and she dresses up as Mrs. Claus on the weekends before Christmas at the display.

    For the last few years, the Schimka family has been raising funds at the display to help benefit the non-profit Stein Education Center in Mission Valley. Stein helps families and kids with Autism and other disabilities. Belardo Lights is planning to fund their entire set of Winter Camp activities this year, as well as outfit their campus with much needed therapeutic toys, games, and activities for the kids. 100% of the Belardo Lights proceeds raised goes to Stein, and they use all of the funds provided for their activities and kids.

    The Display has a website (, and a Facebook Group (Belardo Lights), and the Schimkas post photos, guestbook entries, and other heart-warming information about the display and what it means to their family as well as the community.

    Randy, Melynie, and Brandon welcome all San Diego residents and their families to come out and visit the display this year, but particularly those with a family member affected by Autism. As a special treat, Mrs. Claus will be dressed up and visiting the display on weekends leading up to Christmas. She'll be handing out candy canes and special Belardo Lights bracelets for the kids!

    Belardo Lights is located in San Diego at 5306 Belardo Drive and will be operational this year through December 27th from 6 to 10pm nightly.

  • MSNC Free Webinar Series: Independent Education Evaluation (IEE)
  • The webinar will air on December 14th at 12:00 noon and will repeat on December 17th at 7:00 pm.

    Join us by registering at

  • Holiday Central San Diego Family Pool/Pizza Party with Santa!
  • Friday, December 14, 2018 at 6 PM - 8 PM
    Aqua Pros Swim School
    4635 Clairemont Mesa Blvd, San Diego, California 92117

    Celebrate with your family and friends at the Annual Holiday Pool Party. This year will feature our usual pizza, cookies and beverages, plus a pot luck. We ask each of you to bring a dessert or finger food to share

    There will be a visit from Santa and his Elf where you can get your photo taken. Plus, there will be a small treat for each of the kids. Click here for all the info!!!

  • CORRECT LINK!!! -- City of San Diego Park & Recreation Therapeutic Recreation Services Program
  • The City of San Diego Park & Recreation Therapeutic Recreation Services program provides sports, recreation, leisure and outreach services to people with physical, mental and emotional disabilities.

    Services include therapeutic recreation programs and adaptive sports opportunities. These address the special needs of individuals with disabilities who have difficulty accessing and participating in recreation opportunities offered to the general public.

    Under the direction of Certified Therapeutic Recreation Specialists, activities and services are designed to maintain or improve the physical, cognitive and social functioning of those who have limitations. The target population is children and adults, ages 3 and up, with any type of disability.

    For additional questions about Therapeutic Recreation Services, please call 619-525-8247.

    Click here to view their 2018-2019 newsletter and calendar of events!!!

  • ATPF Parent & Caregiver Workshop
  • Thursday, December 13, 2018 at 6:30 PM - 8 PM
    Autism Tree Project Foundation
    2845 Nimitz Blvd, San Diego, California 92106

    RSVP for ATPF Parent & Caregiver Workshop today:

    Join us for an opportunity to learn about how to identify mental health symptoms in individuals diagnosed with ASD as well as evidenced based psychological interventions. This workshop will be led by Dr. Tracy Shepler, BCBA. This workshop is free and dinner will be provided.

  • 10th Annual ATPF USD Winter Wonderland
  • Saturday, December 15, 2018 at 4 PM - 7 PM
    University of San Diego
    5998 Alcala Park, San Diego, California 92110

    Join our holiday celebration! RSVP for your family today:

  • ASD Mornings at theNAT
  • Social stories (in English and Spanish) for 7 museums in Balboa Park (The Nat, The Fleet, Museum of Photographic Arts, San Diego Museum of Art, Museum of Man, San Diego History Center, and Japanese Friendship Garden) are available online. These were created by young adults with autsim as part of the SPECTRUM Social Stories Project here at The Nat.

  • Autism Accessibility Morning at the Fleet!

  • The third Saturday of every month, Fleet invites the Autism Spectrum Community to enjoy our museum through this special opportunity. Adults and families with children with autism can enjoy the Fleet's exhibit galleries in a quieter setting, an hour before regular open hours to the general public and with access to a special cool-off space. Visitors are welcome to stay and enjoy the museum all day. Admission includes a special IMAX film screening at 10 a.m. with the house lights on and a lower soundtrack volume.

    For more information, visit

  • "Autism Through the Lifespan" Monthly Parent Support and Information Meetings

  • October 2018 - May 2019
    PLNU Graduate Education
    4007 Camino Del Rio South - Fourth Floor
    San Diego, CA 92108

    Please join other parents, caregivers and professionals at the following monthly informational and support group meetings in Mission Valley. These meetings will discuss the various aspects of autism through the lifespan. Each meeting will feature an expert speaker and an ASA parent mentor. This is a time for you to meet other parents, ask questions and network.
    The meetings are free and open to all. See the flyer for all the info!!!

  • Participate in Research!!! Can a Safe 'Fever' Help Autism Syptoms? Spanish Speakers Welcome!!!
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    Can a Safe 'Fever' Help AUTISM Symptoms?

    Una 'Fiebre' Para Disminuir los Sintomas de AUTISMO? 

    Pilot Study Enrollment

    This pilot study will enroll 12 families with ASD children ages 2-17 years old in a controlled study, in the San Diego and Los Angeles areas. We are testing a dry heat therapy from an FDA-cleared medical device with simulates the effect of a low-grade fever by non-invasively infusing heat into the circulatory system. The Fielding Graduate University IRB approved study is entitiled: "The Fever Effect: Do kids with autism do better when they use a device to warm their blood? Effects of six-week AVACEN Treatment Method on Autism Spectrum Disorder".

    If you are interested in participating in this pilot study please contact Frances Poteet at and provide your phone number, email address, zip code and best time to reach you so that we can contact you. If you are not selected as part of this pilot study, you may be offered an opportunity to participate in a larger study of the device at a later date.

    Participants who complete the entire study will receive a $200 Amazon gift card. Enrolling now! Limited openings available!

    We can offer services in English and Spanish (all the way from the Orientation throughout the course of the study.)

  • Participate in Research: Caregiver/Family Member Survey
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    My name is Richie Sapp. My twin brother, Mikey, has been attending the TERI day program for several years now. I am a third-year medical student (MS3) at Stanford School of Medicine where I am currently taking a research year to focus my efforts in medical education, specifically to improve patient care for individuals with disabilities. I am creating an elective course for medical students/PA students for Winter Quarter 2018/19 and I could use your help.

    Please consider completing this first survey and if your son/daughter would like to complete the second survey on their own, I would welcome that too.

    1) This survey is for parents/caregivers of individuals with disabilities. Caregiver/Family Member Survey, which will help me with what content to put together for the course. Please feel free to share the survey with anyone who might be interested in sharing their experiences. Here is the link:

    2) Additionally, if you know anyone with a disability who would like to speak about their own experiences, there is a separate survey for individuals with disabilities. The link is below:

    Thank you so much for all your support!

    Please email me if you have any questions.

    Thank you,
    Richie Sapp

  • Brain Imaging Studies for all Ages with or without Autism

  • The Brain Development Imaging Labs at San Diego State University are looking for individuals with diagnosed or suspected autism to participate in a brain imaging study. Participants would receive around $150 plus free cognitive testing and an MRI scan. Child participants would receive a free assessment summary and image of their brain as a bonus! We are looking to recruit from all ages, but we especially need adults, ages 40-65 years, to participate. If you know someone who might be a good fit for our study, please share this information with them. Thank you.

    At SDSU!!! To find out more, please call 619-594-0176 or email BDIL@SDSU.EDU.


    I never endorse anyone or anything. Opinions expressed in what I send out, may not be shared by me. Everything is for informational purposes only.
    People who "advertise" through this newsletter have never been checked out by me. Same goes for the "Sponsors". This includes professionals and even people who are interested in babysitting, etc. So, please take the time to thoroughly check out anyone and everyone who will be working with or caring for your child/adult. We are all sadly aware, through news stories and word of mouth, of people who prey upon special needs children and adults because of their extra vulnerability.

    Valerie Dodd-Saraf
    President, Foggy Coast Ventures, Inc.